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Lecture by Prof. Judith Heyer, Emeritus Fellow, Oxford

Under the CDS Lecture Series a lecture on “Agriculture in Coimbatore Region: An example of a Symbiotic Relationship” was delivered by Prof.  Judith Heyer, Emeritus Fellow, Oxford at the Joan Robinson Hall on 6 December 2017.

Dr P.L Beena, coordinator of Academic events, introduced and welcomed the speaker who is an Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College and an Honorary Associate of Queen Elizabeth House. Her current research interests centre on the relationship between rural and urban, and agricultural and industrial, development in South India. Prof. Heyer said that she has been exploring this relationship through a long standing study of villages to collect data to examine, discuss and study various issues relevant in India. The study which started in early 1980 has spanned over a period of nearly 3 decades focusing on the  Coimbatore region of Tamil Nadu. Coimbatore is a particularly interesting place in which to study the relationship as it is the site of a dynamic process of rural industrialisation, centred currently on Tiruppur. The study of asset accumulation wealth distribution, what happens to the wealth and how it is distributed was the central focus of data collection.

One of the main themes of focus has been on the interaction of caste and class in the rural industrialisation process and also the role played by gender. Another particular interest is the role that the state has been playing, both in the neo-liberal and in the pre-neo-liberal era.

The lecture looks at the role of agriculture in these villages in the Coimbatore region, a region which has long been known for the dynamism of its industrial sector, and a region in which agriculture has been playing a decreasing role. Surprisingly, numbers are still wholly or partially dependent on agriculture, despite or perhaps because the region has seen so much non-agricultural growth. A study of households in villages not far from Coimbatore and Tiruppur over the past 35 years shows that in villages the populations of which have been declining only slightly, the numbers that are partially or wholly dependent on agriculture remain high. This is an example of the positive interaction between industry and agriculture, urban and rural areas, over the period under review. While numbers in agriculture have been declining, incomes in the relatively large proportion of households still dependent on agriculture have increased. This is true throughout the landholding distribution. It is true for landless agricultural labourers as well.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer session from those present in the audience.